Category Archives for Enterprise Social Networks

The 5 Hats of the ESN Community Manager

The 5 hats of the ESN Community Manager

So I'm no fashion expert. Especially not when it comes to hats! One person who does know a thing or two about hats is the ESN Community Manager.


They have to swap and change 'hats' in the metaphorical sense all the time.

By my reckoning there are five hats that the 'Rockstar Community Manager' needs to wear...take a read and see if you agree!

The 5 Hats of the ESN Community Manager

ESN Community Manager Hat 1
#1: The Referee Hat

So the first hat is the referee hat. The community manager is looked upon to maintain the standards of the network, create and communicate those standards, and enforce them when necessary. Pretty much like a referee. Whistle optional.

Disputes won't be frequent, but at times you have to remind people about the rules. Those 'rules' will differ from company to company, but they could be things such as use of profane language, inappropriate content, etc.

I asked Marc Wright at Simply Communicate how much control one needs. His answer is rather illuminating...

Marc Wright Publisher, Simply Communicate

As a referee or moderator be aware that the more senior the colleague the more they are likely to screw up on your ESN.

When even the CFO of twitter gets it wrong as Anthony Noto (below) did when he meant to send a Direct Message about an acquisition to a colleague but instead inadvertently broadcast it on the public network, it is pretty clear that social media is a minefield for senior staff.

So worry far more about the executive suite getting it wrong - front-line staff rarely do anything online that is this embarrassing - either internally or externally on social media.

So worry more about the senior leaders...makes sense! It's still a good idea to have some ground rules in place as a reference for newbies. If you need an Etiquette Guide to get you started, grab the one I use below....

ESN Etiquette Guide Example

Grab this two page Etiquette Guide to give to your colleagues and stick somewhere visible in your ESN - its important to encourage the right behaviours,                      

ESN Community Manager Hat 2
#2: The Thought Leader Hat

Second up we have the thought leader hat. The ESN Community Manager needs to have their own views on the area of business they are in. A common misconception is that the role is for a junior member of staff.

They are young and 'they get social' right. Wrong. Age is no indication of digital competence. 

​The best ESN Community Managers are the ones whose views are respected, who have a certain degree of gravitas. Who are thought leaders in their field.

Great #ESN Community Managers are thought leaders in their field who their community respect

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ESN Community Manager Hat 3
#3: The Project Manager Hat

And so to hat number three, the PM hat. It's very easy to get carried away with the immediate and focus your time buried deep in the ESN 'doing stuff'.

But remember you need to plan future activities, campaigns, etc. This is where a touch of the 'PM's rigour' helps you out big time.

Try and treat every campaign in your ESN like a mini project with clearly defined deliverables (e.g. increase engagement by 20%) and have key milestones, much as you would any other project. 

I asked Rachel Miller at All Things IC what proportion of planning vs execution is required for a great ESN...

Rachel Miller Founder, All Things IC

If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Invest time planning what you're doing, you can't overdo thinking about it.

But make sure you allow room and time for creativity and fresh ideas to emerge.

ESN Community Manager Hat 4
#4: The Change Driver Hat

So, the change driver hat. One thing is clear, the ESN Community Manager needs a thick skin! - you will face a barrage of questions, quizzical looks, even complaints! What on earth is the point of social network for work many will ask you.

Remember that you are implementing a new way of working - resistance is normal, to be expected in fact!

New employees are a great way to infiltrate some of that 'old school thinking'. Over to blogger and author Virpi Oinonen to expand on this...

Virpi Oinonen Author of 'Internal Social Networks The Smart Way'

New employees are great potential change agents for new ways of working. When they join the organisation their minds are more or less a blank slate as far as your company culture is concerned.

If you manage to create for them a positive enterprise social experience early on, they will be in a better position to resist peer pressure from older employees who may try and get them to use old communication methods like email.

ESN Community Manager Hat 5
#5: The Spokesperson Hat

Finally, the spokesperson hat. As the ESN Community Manager, you are the internal megaphone for your community. 

You will build relationships with people from parts of the business you would never normally have any dealings with. 

With that power comes great responsibility. Don't abuse it, use your influence sparingly. Remember a key objective of any Rockstar Community Manager is to be present but not seen.  

Nick Crawford Co-founder / Director at BetterWorking

It's simple, the more you put in, the more you get out, just like the host at a party.

Put in a little extra effort to connect people, focus on their needs and how your community can help, then recognise their contributions, and you will reap the rewards that only a thriving community will bring.

So there you have it, the five hats. Do you agree? Which am I missing? Drop me a comment below.

PS. I am working on an online course to equip you with everything you need to become an ESN Community Manager Pro! Register your interest below to get early bird discounts...

Coming soon...Community Management Mastery Program

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How to Become a Community Manager Rockstar

How to become a Community Manager Rockstar

The one ingredient any social network needs is great community management.

So what do you need to be a rockstar community manager?

How do you become the Keith Richards of this community management malarky?

[By the way, this is about community management inside a business in enterprise social networks, but much of it relates to external too]

Grab your axe and read on....​

The make-up of the Community Manager Rockstar (CMR)

The glue that binds
The CMR is the glue that holds the community together. The 'glue that binds' if you like. They build the community, they nurture the people and the conversations, they make sure things are moving in the right direction. What's the right direction? Well, that's for the CMR to figure out! You see, as well as being the eyes and ears on the ground, they also need a strong idea of where the community needs to get to.

Business acumen
The CMR understands the company culture and is super-knowledgeable about strategic business initiatives in the company. They are not only the effective 'glue' in the team but they have business acumen too. They understand what the company is trying to do. They don't side themselves with departmental silos.

Aside: When the Rolling Stones needed a replacement guitarist in the early 70's they were stumped at first. Who on earth could sit in with the biggest rock band in the world? There were tons of proficient guitarists out there who knew all the right chops. But what set aside the one they went for in the end was that he had a deep appreciation for the blues. He knew where their brand of rock music originated from and where it was heading. The CMR is no different. They not only knows the chops, they know about the business on a deep level. They appreciate where the business has come from and where it's heading. Not necessary for your average community manager, but who wants average. We are talking Rockstar proportions here.

Goal generator
They identify goals for the community. They don't just do. They think strategically - then do. But they don't stick to their plans at the mercy of common sense. They are willing to tweak their direction as the community grows.

Champion wrangler
They are super connectors and are constantly scouting new champions in the organisation to spread the word. They wrangle the best talent, the people who are genuinely passionate about social, and get them all gee'ed up to help out.

Undetered warrior
The CMR gets pushed back all the time. They are sometimes seen as big time wasters. Are they put off? Hell no! This just gets them even more pumped! You see the CMR is on a mission to change how people think. This is personal, baby. The CMR isn't 'rolling out yet another IT platform' they are changing how companies work from the inside, like some stealth ninja

Constant gardener
If you've ever tried your hand at gardening, you'll know that nothing is instantaneous. The rewards come with the passing of time. The clematis that never did much last year will bloom this year. The honeysuckle you over pruned never amounted to much. That thing you thought was a weed turned out the be the pride of your crop. The CMR knows community management is the same, and is suitably patient. The rewards come in time, when you least expect them. 

The CMR role is not for the faint-hearted. You need courage and plenty of guts to stay the course. In the same way that Odysseus on his great return was tempted by the Sirens, but strapped himself to the mast, the CMR must also realise they'll be tempted by false dawns. By mirages. They'll be lured into taking the easy path. But they're in it for the long haul. They're world changers. 

Now what's more rock n roll than that?!!​

Coming soon...Community Management Mastery Program

I am working on a course about this community management that is coming very soon. It's going to be awesome (if I do say so myself!). Register your interest below to get early bird discounts...

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9 Ninja Moves For Your Intranet Social Network

9 Ninja Moves for your Intranet Social Network

Ask anyone who's introduced social networking to a company and they'll have a whole list of do's and don'ts, and a fair few war wounds.

Here are my 9 stealth 'Ninja Moves' for getting your social network rocking and a reeling. They're taken from my new book How to Ignite your Enterprise Social Network which you can grab for free.

Which Ninja Moves would you add? Add them in the comments...

BONUS: Check out the list of remarkably silly but amusing Ninja Facts below the article called  'everything you ever wanted to know about Ninjas, but were too afraid to ask'. 

Ninja Move #1: Get leadership buy in

Go to senior leadership to ask for their support. Sounds simple? It may not be, but know this: without their support your chance of making the ESN a success is seriously tricky.

Why? Because leaders set the tone for the business. If they aren’t involved (or at the very least know about the intranet social network and are vocally supportive about it) the people who work for them won’t see it as a worthwhile thing.

Does this mean you need to take this to your executive committee? No, not necessarily. You can pick leaders off one by one.

Even having just one leader who is vocal and supportive is a huge start.

Ninja Move #2: Focus on the low hanging fruit

Don’t go big bang with your social network. Pick off areas of the organisation that are crying out for a social network to help them do x?

But what is that x? It’s your job to find out. Speak to the team and understand what’s not working well and answer this: How will using a social network help them?

Don’t fall into the trap of not being entirely clear yourself and peddle the "oh, a social network can help you in lots of ways". No. Be specific.

Understand a pain point, think of how the social network can help them, then apply the band aid (the social network is the band aid, yes, poor analogy I know).

See if it works? If it does, well done. You've just got your first success story.

Ninja Move #3: Create a kick ass training guide

An absolutely killer training guide for how to use your intranet social network is priceless.

All those ‘how do I…?’ questions can be covered here, saving you a ton of time repeating the same old answers.

Better still, as new questions come about you can add them to the guide and re-issue it regularly, keeping it nice and up-to-date.

Whenever you spot someone in trouble, direct them to the guide.

Pin the guide in a really prominent place on the front of your social network, reference it in training guides, print off a few copies and leave them by the water cooler.

Ninja Move #4: Create a help group

You want to create a place where community members can help each other.

So create a help group / community and make it the home for questions.

Reference it throughout your training guide, at the beginning, middle and end, making sure people know if they have questions about the social network to make the help group their first port of call.

Ninja Move #5: Provide ace customer service

You know the experience of calling a helpdesk, being put on hold and finally getting through to someone who can’t help you anyway. Frustrating? You bet.

So when someone in need of help goes to your help group and asks a question, make sure you’re on it.

Most intranet social networks allow you to set up alerts for specific groups, so you can jump right in there with a helping hand.

Another way to be the first to know when someone needs help is to set up keyword tracking. Sounds complicated but it isn’t. Find out if your social network lets you track certain words such as ‘help’ and ‘please’. Once someone posts something using one of those words, it gets flagged to you, and you’re in there like a knight in shining armour.

It creates exceptional customer service when you do it right.

Ninja Move #6: Create a nerve centre

To be the eyes and ears of your social network, you need to pick up what’s happening as soon as it is. Therefore as well as the above, it’s a great idea to have a secondary screen showing an all company feed.

Use a secondary desktop monitor, a tablet or whatever you have to hand to show a ‘pinterest style’ feed of all your networks activity as it happens. You’ll be amazed at how much you pick up what’s going on.

Check out a couple of apps built solely for this purpose: feedfall and streaming it out loud.

Ninja Move #7: Build a network of community managers

The more expert users, also known as community managers, you have in your social network the better.

Community Managers are people who:

  • Understand company culture & strategic business initiatives
  • Know how to support their teams with setting up and managing the network
  • Model great behaviours

Depending on the size of your business, the number of community managers could be counted on one hand to into the hundreds for really large organisations.

Not everyone is a born community manager.

I have seen many people have the community manager role thrust upon them and be utterly useless at doing it.

Some companies focus in on community management skills and offer training and even certification. A VERY smart move.

Ninja Move #8: Build a network of fellow ninjas

What’s the difference between community managers and champions?


Champion are your brand advocates - they are other ninjas like you. They are people who understand the power of social networking and who freely advocate the role and purpose of the social network for the business.

They are the person, often senior leader (but not always) who has influence (often an opinion former and thought leader) and who people listen to.

It's vital you identify these Champions, nurture their interest, listen to them, and solicit their support as often as you can.

Champions can open doors and opportunities for your network like no other.

Ninja Move #9: Don’t over plan

While this may sound counter-intuitive, you’ll never know what will really work in your intranet social network until you try it.

You may be surprised with what does take off.

Much better to adopt the ‘lean start up’ model. Which means get a minimum viable product, test it, see what works, and rapidly re-iterate.

So try numerous activities, build on the ones that work, move on from the ones that don’t, and focus your time on promoting the good ones.

Most of all….Get stuck in! Build momentum, convince one team, or even one person, at a time and keep at it – your social network will flourish when you persevere. Your energy will be infectious.

What else have you seen work? Do you agree with these ninja moves?

For some activation examples I’ve seen work well, grab a copy of my free book here

BONUS: Everything you ever wanted to know about Ninjas, but were too afraid to ask...

During the writing of this article I came across a lot of random Ninja literature, and being a bit of closet Kung Fu nerd, l lapped it up! Here's a list of incredibly silly Ninja Facts...

Ninjas don't sweat.

Bullets can't kill a ninja.

Only a ninja can kill a ninja. Regular humans are useless.

Ninjas never wear headbands with the word "ninja" printed on them.

Ninjas can change clothes in less than 1 second.

Ninjas can crush golfballs with 2 fingers, any two fingers.

Fight skillfully with any object

Live in your house secretly for days

Can remove their shadow if needed

Go anywhere they want instantly

Catch bullets in their teeth

Kill themselves if they make a noise

Can run 100 miles on their hands

Train 20 hours/day starting from age 2

Are masters of disguise

Can hover for hours

Are completely self-sufficient

Can hide in incense smoke

Ninjas are the best guitar players. Ever.

Ninjas do NOT wear spandex.

A Samurai is NOT a ninja.

Courtesy of Sam Paulin's Urban Dictionary

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5 Top Enterprise Social Networks to Consider for Your Business [Expert Review]

Too much noise, not enough collaboration, too many emails flying about the place...

So you figure your company would benefit from using a social network. Great idea - there are tons of benefits for your employees. But where do you start in choosing one?

To help you out I’ve chosen five of the top enterprise social networks you should consider, and I've asked experts in the field (practitioners, not vendors) for their thoughts on the pros and cons of each one.

Without further ado, let's dive straight into our first, IBM's Connections.

1. Connections

According to the sales copy on their product page, IBM's Connections is a social network that helps empower and engage people in an organisation, inspiring innovation and engendering trust. 

Connections Standout Features

  • Connections is a SaaS system that runs on your mobile or desktop computer
  • The software has a homepage function with a social activity stream, profiles, communities, mail, bookmarks, file-sharing and discussion forums
  • Blogs and wiki pages also make it very easy to share and collaborate with co-workers.
  • Connections integrates with Microsoft applications, such as SharePoint, Windows Explorer, Outlook and Office.

Here is a video introducing Connections…

I asked Jenni Field who heads up Communications at SSP Group for her take on the pros and cons of IBM connections...

Jenni Field Group Head of Communications at SSP Group

What rocks about Connections?
The file sharing is the best part of Connections for our business. Being global we often use free file sharing services to share large presentations and commercial information which isn’t secure. Connections gives us a secure place to store all our documents and share them throughout the business. As the business culture and organisational design has shifted the role of Connections has also changed – so I think what rocks now will probably be different in 12 months as the business evolves. Having something that can do so much gives you the ability to support many different areas of business process

What, if anything, could be improved? 
The ability to cut through the noise. It is very 'social' so it's difficult to push through the likes and comments to get news out. It is a regular annoyance from the end user who would prefer a daily update of news, not daily updates of the social side of the tool

Second in line is Jive, another popular choice...

2. Jive

Jive’s mission is to empower people and organizations to work better together by improving the way they connect, communicate and collaborate and is a relative new kid on the block. 

According to their sales page Jive helps your employees, customers and partners work better together. In fact Jive goes as far to say that new communication tools increase productivity by 15% when social collaboration tools are adopted – ‘think outside the mailbox’ (see below excerpt from their infographic)
Jive - think outside the mailbox

Let's look at Jive's key features...

Jive Standout Features

  • Jive is a mobile-ready ESN with similar profile functions.
  • One of Jive's most unique features is "Recommendations." It's similar to Facebook's "People You May Know," but instead, suggests profiles of people you should get to know in your company, based on shared interests and related areas of expertise.
  • Its "Structured Outcomes" feature also makes it easy to tell co-workers which tasks are complete, and which still need to be finished.

Here’s an intro video to give you a flavour of Jive:

I asked Tony Stewart, International Internal Community Manager at NBCUniversal and avid user of Jive…

Tony Stewart International Internal Community Manager at NBCUniversal

What rocks about Jive?
It does so much! A really complete ESN, with everything you want from Social Sharing as you’d expect – video, photos, status updates, blogs – but dig deeper and there’s an incredibly rich collaboration toolset that allows you to sync and share files, collaborate in projects, set milestones and a host of other ‘getting work done’ tools. I think this really differentiates it from the other platforms in the market.

What, if anything, could be improved? 
It does so much! This can be quite an intimidating barrier for those new to ESNs in the workplace or trying to explain how the platform operates, especially for someone who’s visiting the site without handholding. Also there are times that some functionality doesn’t work as well as it could, spread a little thin you could say. But with proper education, onboarding, and an enthusiastic Community Manager (!) these can be overcome.

Third up we have Socialcast...

3. Socialcast

Socialcast is another feature packed platform allowing employees to freely converse, share files, and get notifications - and all this possible on the go from a mobile app. They also cite some pretty amazing ‘productivity gains’ to be had from ESN…


Socialcast Standout Features

  • SocialCast is another ESN optimized for mobile or desktop
  • It provides a centralized workplace and communication center for employees.
  • You can create public or private groups, share documents and manage your projects via SocialCast.
  • A notable feature is the "Task Timeline," which displays which tasks you need to do today, and which are queued up for tomorrow.
  • The Socialcast Org Chart also helps employees keep track of company hierarchy

Here’s an intro video to help you familiarise yourself with Socialcast…

Lets hear from an expert. Over to Jeff Ross, Community Strategist/Manager at Humana…

Jeff Ross Community Strategist/Manager at Humana

What rocks about Socialcast?
Socialcast continuously improves their platform and pushes out updates nearly every quarter on everything from major new features to nice tweaks in existing functionality. They are very responsive to customer suggestions for improvements, having implemented many of the changes we have suggested in our 5+ years of using the platform. I couldn’t be happier with their product growth and customer service responsiveness from a product development/improvement perspective.

What, if anything, could be improved? 
There is room for improvement in the administrative reporting available. While many reports are included, it would be better to have highly customizable reports based on selected data captured rather than reliance on the various canned reports. Also, the tech support since being purchased by VMware has increased the time to issue resolution with reliance on slow email conversations across time zones rather than calls with tech support to identify and resolve issues quickly.

Fourth up we have Yammer...

4. Yammer

Yammer was one of the first ESNs to hit the scene back in 2008 and sold to Microsoft in 2012. As well as all the functionality you’d expect for connecting and sharing with colleagues, Yammer also has a vibrant app eco-system and great mobile connectivity.

With Microsoft now at the helm, Yammer is becoming embedded into their latest cloud based Office offering (called "Office 365"), meaning you’ll able to seamlessly work across office mainstays PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook with Yammer.

Yammer Standout Features

  • Optimized for desktop and mobile use
  • Company networks are private, so you must have a verified company email in order to join.
  • The user interface is similar to Facebook, with status updates, pages and "follow" capabilities.
  • "Notes" functionality allows co-workers to produce content on the fly in a simple format
  • Able to annotate documents within the browser

Here’s an intro video to give you a feel for Yammer…

Let’s hear what Melanie Hohertz, Online Communications Lead at Cargill, has to say about using Yammer…

Melanie Hohertz Online Communications Lead at Cargill

What rocks about Yammer?
Yammer has the promise of integration with the power of the Office stack powered by the Office Graph. Multi-user collaborative editing of files native in the tool is imminent. Mobile apps are robust, and companies have options for external networks, and external-participant conversations and groups.

What, if anything, could be improved? 
Other tools can and have eclipsed current stand-alone Yammer functionality and even Yammer-SharePoint functionality. A lot depends on whether Microsoft integrates integrates Yammer well in the O365 ecosystem, such as quickly connecting the platform with the new Outlook Groups.

And finally Chatter, another popular choice.  

5. Chatter

Chatter is owned by Salesforce, one of the biggest cloud computing companies in the world. Chatter is their social network product which can be used integrated through their other IT offerings or as a standalone product. 

Chatter Standout Features

  • Chatter is optimized for mobile and desktop use
  • Chatter Connect provides a social network experience, while Chatter in Apex allows creates custom Chatter experiences in Salesforce.
  • Able to create separate communities in a centralized location for streamlined communication.
  • Connections allows for painless integration with Microsoft applications, such as SharePoint, Windows Explorer, Outlook and Office.

Here’s an intro video to give you a feel for Chatter…

Now let's look at a business application of Chatter. 

GE (General Electric) have really benefited from using Chatter, adding deep levels of collaboration to GE Aviation’s sales efforts. Sales reps use Chatter to share documents, answer questions, and get instantaneous feedback. 

Check out GE's 'Social Story' below...

Beth Comstock CMO, GE

Talking about Chatter...
What might've taken a team—in the best case—a week, can now be done in minutes

The immediacy and the touch points of Chatter change commercial business as we know it

Social networks give you continual real-time feedback, unlike anything you can get from a focus group, plus, they are a great source for ideas for future inventions



I hope this article has given you plenty of food for thought. 

Each of the products we've looked at have their own merits.

The big players such as Yammer, IBM and Chatter have great integration with other desktop systems, so it depends to some extent on how important that integration is to your business.

As standalone ESNs, Jive and Socialcast have raving fans, and plenty more new players are coming to the scene every year.

Remember with most of these products offer some kind of freemium product for you to test-drive.

Which ESN looks the best to you? Drop a comment below...

Many more ESN case studies can also be found on allthingsic

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5 top enterprise social networks to consider for your business

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Supercharge your virtual team’s performance with an enterprise social network

Different time-zones...languages...cultures. Different ways of behaving.

Working in virtual teams can be a challenge to say the least, and all large global organisations have them.

How do many virtual teams get around these challenges? Well, often they don't. They struggle with old tech and even older ways of working.

The enterprise social network, or ‘ESN’ for short, is the new kid on the block. When used to the maximum effect, it can supercharge a team’s virtual performance.

Here’s how...

How a virtual team can use an enterprise social network

Communicating. Team members can share project updates, useful or inspirational link, meeting minutes, basically anything they like – without inundating everybody’s inboxes via a group email. With email, when someone replies all just to say ‘thanks’, the whole team needs to delete the message individually. Pleasantries can be done as simply as hitting ‘like’ to a comment in a social network. Much easier

Sharing files and media. Members can share documents via the ESN without having to attach them to an email. People will be thankful for not having their email storage quota maxed out (some orgs have as little as 500Mb for the storage). All types of rich media can be shared easily – videos, audio files, info-graphics, etc – and done in a relatively simple ‘one hit’ fashion.

Seeking help. Members can ask for assistance from the team on any given matter. Anyone within the team is free to respond. Compare this to the email model, where only the people that the sender thinks can help would be included. Why not make the request open to everyone in the team? Email encourages far too much thinking into who gets added to the TO and CC field.

Creating a record for future reference. The team’s activity is captured and can be used as a reference source in the future. This is especially useful for new recruits who can delve into historical conversations and quickly familiarize themselves with the key discussions. Conversations that take place in long email threads are inaccessible to anyone NOT on the original email distribution. This democratizes the teams intellectual property.

Helps team morale. The success of a virtual team hinges on how well team members communicate with each other. A social network helps to bind the team in subtle ways. Remember this is a ‘social’ network after all. . Members can ask for assistance from the team on a given matter. Anyone within the team is free to respond. Compare this to the email model, where only those that the sender thinks can help are included.

Let’s look at some of the things to consider when setting up a network for a virtual team.

Basic steps for setting up a virtual team network

  • For the team to embrace the social network you need leadership endorsement and involvement from day one. While some networks may survive without the boss’ involvement, the ones that do far out-perform the ones that don’t. So step one is to engage the leadership around why the team would benefit from using a social network. You need to be articulate the benefits for the team – what would they be getting out of it on a day to day basis?
  • The next step is to engage the team. How? Craft an email message to come from your leadership setting out the rationale and benefits of using the social network, and have it come from his of her email account (with their permission of course!). This helps to legitimize the social network in the eyes of the team members.
  • Assign a community manager to manage the running of the network (or it could be you?). Either way, there is an art to effectively community managing a team, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. The success of the group often comes down to competency of the community manager.
  • Hold a meeting to demonstrate to the team how to use the social network. This should be a practical session to walk people through basic set-up / navigation so they know which buttons to press. You should also give them practical things for them to do in the network to get them started. Don’t assume people know what to do, often they don’t and the whole thing will quickly grind to a halt.
  • Encourage the right ‘social behaviors’. Narrating your work, being helpful to colleagues, praising each other for good work done, helping each other out, being thoughtful, being kind. You need to encourage your leaders to live by that code too. They need to be active and visible in the group, and setting the tone for the rest.


I hope this article has given you some solid understanding for why social networks help virtual teamwork, as well as some practical ideas for setting one up. Now it’s over to you…

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6 ways that enterprise social networks are humanizing the workplace


When was the last time you felt that you – the whole you – showed up to work?

We spend more time at work than anywhere else. More time than with our families. Than with our friends. More than we even sleep!

Fortunately, this is all set to change. Technology is, rather ironically, making us more human at work.

In her research paper ‘Organisations in the Digital Age – 10 Key Findings’ Jane McConnell calls out ‘Digital Humanizes and Energizes Organizations by Making Work Personal’ as the number one finding. Over the past seven years an individual’s capability to co-create content, communicate in real time and share information without having to go through ‘official publishers’ (which I assume means via a company’s communications department) has gone through the roof.

Enterprise social networks are playing a large role in bringing about this change. Here are five practical ways they do that:

6 ways that enterprise social networks are humanizing the workplace:

1. Random meet ups 
feetTNHere’s the thing. Many of us are sheepish about meeting new people. We stay in our departmental teams and only venture outside the team if we really have to. The functional badges we give ourselves – I’m in HR, I’m in IT, I’m in Marketing – is a classic piece of tribalism. The problems come when HR and IT feel like exclusive ‘functional clubs’, and barely act like they’re from the same company. A great solution is to set up ‘random meet ups’. Names are put into a hat and random pairings made. Based purely on chance. I could be paired up with the head of IT, or the janitor. Its completely random. Announce the pairings in your social network (X you are paired with Y this month). The network has a funny way of holding the two people to account for meeting up, Now here’s the key: they both need to feedback on the network what they learnt, however profound or banal. Random Meet Ups are ‘comfort-zone smashers’ and attract serendipity like nothing else.

2. Sharing passion
People-fieldWe all have interests outside of work. Things we are passionate about. Subjects that your colleagues are pleasantly surprised to find out….’really, you do that? I never knew’. I always remember when a colleague told me in passing how he spends his Saturdays coaching disadvantaged children – I had no idea, why would I? Works work right? But boy did my perception of him change. Well social networks can be a way to channel some of these passion area of ours. They can encourage a real outpouring of emotion in a company that may reel back from outward signs of emotion. I saw a great example of this for International Women’s Day – a fantastic global event which encourages equal rights for women. We ran an ‘ESN takeover’ for the day, had guest bloggers, encouraged conversation around the major themes. The ESN became a hot-bed of passionate and emotional posts about the role women play in our society. I was especially touched by the outpouring of men celebrating their mothers as a leading light in their lives – me included 🙂 There are dozens of special days you could celebrate this way, and your colleagues will love them.

3. Geeking out on Hobbies
cookTNHobbies I hear you say? By jove, this is work! I disagree. The more you humanise the workplace, the more connected and fulfilled your workforce will be. Humanising the workplace means creating a place where it’s ok to share gardening tips, geek out on photography or gorging on World of Warcraft. A great way to encourage this is to identify the conversations in your network which sound like potential hobby groups. Then pounce! Choose the person who appears to be the most vocal on a given topic and help that person set up their own discussion group, private or public, whichever they prefer. Light as many fires as you can.

4. Narrating work
I often get the question ‘I don’t know what to say on the network’. I agree, it’s often bewildering where to even start. Many of us have no time or inclination to become active on external networks such as Twitter outside of work, so why would we suddenly be adept at social networking inside the company. We are not digital natives, we tell ourselves. One great way to counter this is the following: We all have lightbulb moments during our days. Some profound, others more of a dim flicker. But thoughts all the same, and some for sure will be of interest to others. We are all on some kind of learning journey. We have thoughtful ideas, exchanges, challenges…. why not share those? Narrate them? Treat your social network like a live journal where you can share with your followers how your day is going. Your followers have already chosen to follow you so they will be interested. I have seen countless people start this exercise, and great things happen as a result. It doesn’t happen overnight, but a steady trickle of narration gradually builds up an online audience who will respect and listen to you. For more inspiration on this topic check out John Stepper’s Working Out Loud blog.

5.  Posting your cat
Often cited as a pet peev (‘scuse the pun) of many a community manager is the ‘cat photo’. Many people try to discourage this kind of silliness, stating that the social network should be a ‘place for business’. If your whole feed starts to resemble a Lynley Dodd book, then yes, I agree, something needs to be done. But a light sprinkle of pets, birthday cake pics, Halloween outfits and novelty xmas trees from around the world (to sight some real life examples I’ve seen!) can go a long way to humanize your network.

6.  Praising others
We all know how it feels to be praised for doing some worthwhile. Great right. And we all know we don’t do it enough, at work or at home. Gratefulness is a hugely underappreciated habit, which, like kindness often gets overlooked in the cut and thrust of working life. Promote a praising culture in your social network – how? Like everything, do it yourself. Make a pact with yourself that you’ll praise someone every week, out the blue, for something worthwhile they have done. A couple of killer insider tips: Choose one day a week, e.g. #ThankYouThursday and make it a weekly thing with the support of your champions. Secondly, if your social network allows for it, set up a keyword alert for ‘thanks’. You’ll quickly see who’s helping who out and then go praise them!

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Giving ourselves permission. Have you?


I recently met up with Euan Semple, self professed digital cage-rattler and author of the book Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do. Among the many things discussed, one that fascinated me was that of ‘permission’. In a subservient world we wait for permission to be granted, in a networked ‘exponential’ world we bestow permission upon ourselves. 
We give ourselves the go ahead. Over to you Euan…

Permission by Euan Semple


Euan Semple

Is authority more important to those who wield it – or those who defer to it?

Sometimes it seems simpler to give others permission to think for us, to tell us what to do, to take responsibility for our happiness. Life seemed so much easier when our parents did this for us and we long to return to that feeling of comfort and safety. We are attracted by the seductive ease of giving others permission to make sense of the world for us through the news, to industrialise story telling in film. We are drawn to the apparent safety of a job where we allow others to tell us what to do in return for what seems like stability. It is all so easy.

But we fell asleep. We stopped thinking for ourselves. We gave up responsibility. And now the world around is changing faster than ever before. Our fictionally safe lives are starting to fall apart and we don’t know what to do.

But we can give ourselves permission to take back our sense making. We can reach out to each other through our online networks to tell each other stories, to collectively work things out. We can do this at home and at work. We can use our new found skills to take back responsibility and have agency.

We can give ourselves permission to wake up.

Read more Euan Semple writings on his blog ‘the obvious’ here

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Avoid this rookie mistake with your enterprise social network

Many companies haven’t a clue when it comes to running an enterprise social network inside their business

There is an assumption, because of the prevalence of Twitter, Facebook and the like, that all you need to do is plug one into a company’s mainframe and away you go.

I call this ‘plug and pray’.

You’d be forgiven for thinking they are the same. Internal social networks have all the same accoutrements you find on external ones, lulling us into a false sense of familiarity. Follow buttons, like buttons, activity streams, groups. Heaps of similarities.

There is one killer, and I mean absolute humdinger of a reason, why they are different though.


Everyone knows what Facebook is for. Love it or hate it, it’s purpose is baked into its very fabric. Same goes for LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and so on.

Now take your company’s internal social network. What’s it’s purpose? Is it ‘to improve collaboration’? to ‘break down silos’? To create ‘a great place to work’? No, these can’t be it’s purpose – they are desirable outcomes – not the reason you use it.

Not defining the purpose of your internal social network is the single biggest rookie mistake. How do you avoid making it?

Simple. Ask yourself Why you need it in the first place.

The next time a colleague asks you for an ‘internal Facebook for their team’. Ask them Why as well. Why do they want a social network in the first place? What are they trying to achieve?

Here’s what I call ‘The Five Whys‘ for using an enterprise social network:

1. For projects. Set up a group, community, whatever your ESN of choice offers you, for a specific project team. Use the group as a virtual meeting place. Use it as the place to ask questions, reserving email only for one to few communications. And tell people that. More, get your leaders to live by that code. When you see group email, go direct to sender and ask that next time they post the question in the social network. Hold a webjam in the group every month. Could be ask a senior leader webjam, could be a round table discussion one – it doesn’t matter. Mix it up.  Share agendas, killer documents that people always need, videos, whatever is most viral in your group.

2. For communicating. Every company has an internal communications department. How do they communicate? By email. Problem is people are swamped by emails. How do you ensure your message has the right cut-through? Well, you can’t. Why not channel the majority of your communication through your social network? Set up a generic account for ‘yourcompanyinternalcomms’ and post from that. Encourage others to follow it. Then your communications pop up in their activity feed. Yes maybe they’ll ignore, just as would ignore your email. But within the network there is one key difference = people can respond. Or like. Something! With email the most intel you can get is open rates. Communicators want to know what people think. Social networks encourage that.

3. For generating ‘themed’ discussions. What’s one of those? A ‘themed’ discussion is a particular interest / passion that a given group of people in the company have. The more specific the niche the better the outcome. Too broad and there’s too much leg room. Keep it tight, and people who are passionate about a given topic will come in droves. And it doesn’t need to be high-brow, intellectual themes.  Some of the best themed discussions can be around trivial things.

4. For campaigns. The next time a department wants to run an internal campaign, lets say you’re a car manufacturer and you want to run a safety campaign for your assembly lines, use your social network to do it. Don’t just push out messages. Use the power of social to grow interest around a topic. Create online competitions, scavenger hunts, quizzes – use gamification techniques to bring the subject to life. Make it fun, relevant, vital. Enlist support from your biggest advocates across your network, ask your champions for support.

5. For events. For your next conference use your social network as the back channel. Lets say you have 60 people in a room with 1000 people not there. They could be dotted around the globe. They would love to be there. Well they can be. In the room with you. How? Make a big call out to everyone…this is how we’re going to do this. Make the leaders commit to commentating throughout the sessions. Make the 60 people in the room commit to sharing their thoughts. You’ll find some of the best conversations in the room are happening in the network, with people in the room. Why? Because a heap of people are not comfortable taking the mic and riffing on a topic, but they are in written format. You’re catering for those guys too. As well as creating an awesome broadcast of what’s going on.  What’s more, you’ve got a record of the event in those conversations. Sweet.

It’s easy to be duped into thinking that your company’s social network is an internal Facebook. Don’t be. In large corporate environments if you don’t define Why you want to use it, the only thing you’ll see is organisational tumbleweed blowing through your network. Define the Why first.

If you’d like to read more about how to ignite your social network, grab my free ebook below…

How to ignite your enterprise social network free ebook download

Rookie Cop images used by kind permission of

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8 reasons why ‘messy’ social networks beat intranets. Hands down.

social networks beat intranets

Life is messy. The world of work is messy. Platforms are messy.

Despite this, we try and categorise everything. Ambiguity is bad, order and structure are good.

Interesting then, and hardly surprising, that companies often have lofty ambitions to categorise their information.

Every company wants to be more efficient, of course they do, creating what Bill Gates called in his 1990's book (Business @ the Speed of Thought) 'a world-class digital nervous that information can easily flow through their companies for maximum and constant learning”.

Fast forward 20 years. How far have we come?

Well, take a look outside the company walls and we see a ton of innovation in every shape and form - we have Uber reimagining the taxi industry, AirBnB giving us an alternative to hotels, Netflix instead of cable, Spotify replacing our music collections...the list is inexhaustable.

How are businesses getting on? Have they created the digital nervous system that Bill envisioned above?

Not really. What's the closest thing we've come to?

The company intranet. Oh dear.

Despite grand intentions, intranets often fail miserably. Unrealistic expectations. Lack of strategy and direction. A shortage of people with the right skills. Zero engagement and 'taking it serious' at the top which trickles down throughout the organisation. Poor tech (I put this last as paradoxically its the least important - some of the best intranets I've seen have been built on the oldest tech).

Intranets are also commandeered by communications departments who are not custodians of information for the business. The intranet is a means to delivering a news article, a new campaign, an emerging strategy. This results in a lot of 'vanity pages' that serve no-one except the ego of the leader whose mug-shot adorns the page.

So back to Bill's point, is this digital nervous system implausible? Will companies ever crack this nut? Yes, I believe they can. Moreover, the way to do this already exists - the enterprise social network. What follows are 8 of the main arguments for how social networks beat intranets as tools for sharing knowledge, expertise and helping us communicate as people in our organisations.

8 reasons why social networks beat intranets:

1. social networks are people-centric. We forget that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn have only been around a few years. Their existence has brought into being a whole new level of peer to peer interaction. I have witnessed how this transforms a business when it happens on the inside, its hugely powerful. The social network humanises the business.

2. social networks help you filter out the signal from the noise. You will never make sense of everything on the internet, as you will never make sense of everything in your organisation. Choose your followers well and they help you filter the good stuff from the chaff.

3. social networks create community. Unlike the typical file repository you find on an intranet, members of the community help each other in solving problems. A huge amount of time and effort goes into creating structured hierarchies for finding information, often leading to an information cul-de-sac for the person looking, who quickly gives up. Much simpler for that person to ask the community 'can anyone help with this?' and get an up-to-date response.

4. social networks are a truer reflection of life. They are spontaneous, unpredictable, frantic. In real life people resort to asking other people anyway when they need help - the real knowledge of the company lives in people's heads. Social networks create a place for people to ask for stuff and get answers. Not in search of the holy grail of documents.

5. social networks have energy. The network can build momentum and create talking points at lightening speed. Because it's a network of people and their ideas - and ideas can travel at an unbelievable pace.

6. social networks do not have hierarchy. An individual's worth is judged on his or her contribution to the network, regardless of whether that person is a production operative or senior vice president. The most followed person is not the most senior. The most followed is he or she who serves the network most.

7. social networks have an inherent sense of trust. Trust is implicit in all interactions. The network is very quick to disenfranchise the person who it can't trust. See a great example of this in Don Tapscott's TED talk 'Four principals for the open world' (minute 14:35) where he talks about how birds repel work in unison to repel enemies.

8. social networks are substance over style. The interface is relatively simple. No time is spent creating vanity pages. It's all about communicating.

We feel the urge to compartmentalise knowledge, to put it in boxes, in virtual filing cabinets. This desire misses something blindingly obvious = People. In any organisation every person has a heap of knowledge locked away which will never be labelled, categorised and stored away. Ask that person a question though, and most will be only too happy to help. The social network provides the means of doing this but is boundless with regards to geography, language, even time.

Yes they can be messy, and no not everything is neatly labelled and categorised - but when set up properly the benefits are staggering.

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How to run a webjam in your enterprise social network


Running a webjam for your organisation can be a game changer. They can literally be the catalyst to the success of your enterprise social network. In this post we’ll deep dive into what you need to do to make them successful. We’ll focus on internal (aka inside the organisation) webjams as opposed to external ones. Strap yourself in, this one goes deep…

First off, what is a webjam? Webjams are virtual ‘gatherings’ and to a large extent are platform agnostic. I have predominantly used Yammer to run mine, but there’s no reason why IBM Connections, Saleforce Chatter, Jive or any other enterprise social network won’t cut it. Webjams can be a refreshing alternative to the tried and testing (and often ineffective) teleconference or group phone call.

This is principally because webjams are active formats as opposed to passive –  webjams encourage you to participate by interacting, not purely listening. We all learn differently. Many of us find it hard to concentrate if one has to purely listen (me included). The webjam is a more exploratory way of learning.

So you’ve decided you want to try a webjam. Great. Your initial hurdle is going to be explaining what one is to your colleagues. Habit sticks, especially in the corporate world, and people are often perfectly happy with the existing way of things. Well, at least you may think they are.

In my experience many leaders are frustrated with how they reach out and communicate to their teams. So often the best way to get a leaders buy-in is to come out and say it: teleconference calls don’t work. Mention the awkward ‘any questions?’ silence at the end of them. Ask them if they wish their teams were more willing to voice their thoughts, opinions, objections. Most will say yes. Position a webjam as a way to bridge the communication gap.

Remember webjams are not necessarily a substitution for teleconference or any other meeting for that matter (although they can be). They are complimentary.

So we know what a webjam is. We’ve pitched it to management. They are interested. What next?

Ok, two things:

1. Purpose – what is your webjam about? If you aren’t clear no-one else will be either. The more concise the better. What is it about? What are people’s expectations? What learning outcomes do you have in mind?

Some ideas for purpose:

  • Senior leader webjam. Position webjam as ‘an hour with X to answer your questions around Y’  where a given topic could be a new strategy, vision, anything they please. Serves as a powerful message that leadership is open and transparent, and leaders genuinely enjoy the interaction.
  • Round table discussion webjam. Less hierarchical than the above, can still include senior leaders but the engagement is around a particular topic. The moderator manages posing the questions and timekeeping.
  • Live event webjam. That town hall event, the next results cascade, next month’s conference – all these can be opened up for anyone outside the event by throwing a yamjam during and after the event itself.

2. Process – these are the practicalities. who manages it? how do people know it’s even on? how should they behave once they join (the rules of engagement)?

webjams on an enterprise social network are like parties

Webjams are like parties – you are the host

Think of it like you’re organising a party. You’ll need to send invites, book a venue, work through the details so the ‘guests’ can enjoy themselves. That’s your job as webjam organizer, and the better job you make of this the better the outcome. Lets break it down for pre, during and after the webjam…

Before the webjam :

Announce the webjam with as much notice as possible (ideally 2 weeks prior to session) communicate the webjam on your social network (and any other channel for that matter, newsletters, posters, etc) and ask people to ‘like’ it – telling them you’ll send a calendar invite if they do.  Below is the calendar invite I sent to all interested parties (I got around 30 likes from the post). I sent this as a calendar invite, not just an email. This is vital if you want people to remember to join. Make the invite informal, informative, tell them what a webjam is (stress its an online discussion, no phones), include webjam URL in ‘location’ field in the invite. Encourage people to forward on to other interested parties – word of mouth can be really effective here.

Example invite for an enterprise social network webjam. In this case I used Yammer, hence the 'Yam'.

Example invite for a webjam. In this case I used Yammer, hence the ‘Yam’.

Pick up the stragglers. A lot of people may have missed the above, so go direct to them with a personal email asking for their support. Speak / message / cajole as many people as you can to agreeing to attend. Try approaching senior interested people and asking them personally to join.

Make sure you do ‘on the day’ comms (I pushed out a reminder announcement first thing in the morning and again an hour before)

Key to preparation is writing a conversation plan. This isn’t a script, more a flow of how you’d like the conversation to go. Your plan will differ according to the type of webjam you are running, but the basic premise is the same. How you start, moderate and finish the webjam, with timing, speaker notes, pre-prepared questions, etc. This may feel like you are ‘rigging’ the webjam. To that I’d say two things. One, any meeting of any value should have some structure going into it. Webjams are no different. Two, experience tells me its nigh on impossible to stick to the plan anyway, such is the nature of webjams in general, but the presence of a plan makes the moderators feel like they have structure to fall back on should they need it.

Identifying champions
is another key element to a successful webjam. Your champions are your wingmen.  In one webjam I ran the topic was how to drive the use of Yammer in the organisation (using Yammer to talk about Yammer – a good way incidentally to get your network fired up!). I asked three of our Yammer champions to talk about what they have done to drive the platform. I made sure they had prepped their words beforehand rather than hurriedly trying to write during the webjam. A good idea is to open up a private conversations with them during the Jam – so they can act as a your eyes and ears and advise if you need to quicken the pace, slow it down or do nothing!

Prepping your audience. Share some tips beforehand for how to webjam. I usually send around a 3 page PDF with some basic instructions on how to turn off notifications and other tricks that I’ve found work.

During the webjam : Kick off by introducing yourself as the moderator. Say something like “I’ll be facilitating todays session. This is the structure of today’s webjam….and would love your participation.” Cover some housekeeping. I always cover the basics of how to navigate the webjam. This obviously varies from platform to platform. For Yammer I use this line “You will see in the info box at the top right of this page I’ve put some tips for how to participate in the jam. Remember you can press the period key (.) to refresh your page. You can post in your own language if you wish (click on the translate button). And remember YamJams are all about participation, don’t be shy!”

Note the conversations feels like chaos at first. Unlike traditional meetings, people don’t wait to be brought in to the conversation to speak. They just start chiming in. At times you’ll have numerous conversation threads going on at the same time. Accept that, embrace it. And remind people you will be summarising key themes after the event.

Finish promptly, even if the conversation is still flowing (it will be). I like to use a poll to finish up. Remember to remind people the conversation will continue in the group beyond the webjam. That’s one of the main benefits of the webjam remember, to inject some energy into a community. As webjam organiser you are most akin to the host. Starting it, madly dashing about making sure conversations are flowing, then drawing a close to it all…and cleaning up!

After the webjam : Take a deep breath. It’s over, well done! Now the clear up begins… You now need to replay what’s happen back to the audience.

Do this by writing a summary deck. Don’t try the summary immediately after the event though. Give yourself time to distil what’s just happened, you’ll find you automatically start to group the key themes in your head. Take a mind management piece of software (I used mind manager) and start to collect all the comments from the Jam. This is time consuming so don’t expect to be done in an hour. We had 344 comments and within one comment alone could be several themes, so don’t expect it to be quick. As you start to group things you’ll see there are natural themes. Create the  summary deck with a strong narrative telling the story of the what happened. The idea is you want the deck to get socialised as much as possible with as many people as possible. So having the deck telling a compelling story is important. Share this summary back with participants, ideally within two days of the event so it’s still fresh. You’ll find an interesting conversation may fire up off the back of the summary deck and that people are sharing it days and weeks after (which is what you want)

Wrap up There you have it, your first webjam in your enterprise social network. They are exhilarating to run and can be quite to begin with, but definitely worth it. Remember you are introducing a new way of communicating, so it’s bound to be tricky. Only good things will come from it though, and that can’t be a bad thing. What to do next? Rinse and repeat. You’ll get better in time and the organization with gradually become more networked as you go. Good luck, and please share your results with me would love to know how you got on.

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